Communication Skills

Culture Smarts: Taking In Cultural Cues From Across The World

People skills | Body language

One guide isn't enough to tell you about interpersonal communication with different culture. There are 200+ nations in the world, so you can guess how much you have to know about the verbal and non-verbal communication preferences in other cultures.


This is not the time or place to hazard a guess on their traditions and habits. Just remember the golden rule here, to get respect, you have to give respect.


1. The best tip about being culturally savvy is to be informed. Right before you get a chance to engage with people from a different culture,


2. Cultural preferences to research

- Search Google for 'Culture X preferences, ' difference between Culture X and Culture Y (your culture)'.


- Ask friends and colleagues who may have previous experiences about the cultural differences.


- Ask around in online forums, for example on websites where people learn different languages, Or, on online Q&A websites such as Quora/Yahoo Answers.


- Get a guide: There are many guides in the market for each culture.


- Look in Wikipedia and related Wikimedia sources.


- Take in some of that culture: Eat their food in restaurant of culture X, see how people behave (and ask if you are feeling bold enough). Watch TV shows, movies and news related to Culture X. Watch their gestures, behavior, words they use most (watch videos with subtitles) etc.


3. What you should know about cultural differences

- First of all, cultures are broadly divided between 'indirect/non-verbal communication' (e.g. India, China, etc) and 'direct/verbal communication.' (United States etc).


You have to figure out the nuances of indirect communication for that culture if you want to succeed in your deals with that culture.


In cultures high on indirect communication, people also tend to give ambiguous answers (E.g. East Asia), or use confusing gestures (e.g. head nodding in India.)


- The non-verbal cues of each culture vary on: body language, touch, silence, smell, space (personal), sense of time/timing, as well as clothing, cars, place of residence etc.


(signals) For example, in UK and many western countries, a Thumbs up sign is considered positive, not so in Greece.


(touch) In India and in Muslim countries, touch by left hand is not preferred, left hand is dirty hand.


(eye contact) Americans and Southern Europeans are okay with eye contact, not so the British (only a little) or the Arabs and Latinos (they won't meet the eye of superiors).


(space) In Arab countries, they are big on hugs and kisses, but in Western countries, they need their space.


(verbal) Calling a person by one's first name is okay in most Western countries but not in Indian, East Asia or Muslim countries.


4. Look at your common gestures and words - e.g. Do you gives thumbs up sign often? Where are you on personal hygiene? What is favorite greeting line? Which words do you often use most?


Now check up on these in relation to the Culture X you are scheduled to meet.


5. When dealing with a Culture X, watch out for anything that makes them uncomfortable. Stop right then and apologize.


Thank you for reading.
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